Nigeria’s New Television Audience Measurement System – A Paradigm Shift

Rotimi Pedro

Globally, audience research has been a long-standing activity in the media and advertising industries. It began in the 1960’s when the BBC commissioned the first audience measurement survey, and despite investing in it, the BBC chiefs of the day thought that they didn’t need research because they already knew who was watching what on their network.

That was a fallacy, as indeed they quickly realized after the results were out that the audiences were not necessarily those that they targeted with specific content, and that there were several other factors that affected TV viewership. Fortunately, that strongly held view has now changed and audience research today is the currency by which to buy/sell media, and curate content for the media industry globally.

Today the African media landscape is changing rapidly. Whereas in the past, most of the media outfits were government owned, funded and monopolised, now we are faced with a liberalised private sector-led environment with significant increases of media outlets across the continent that now need private funding to survive.

 Fragmenting the audiences and creating the need for science- based methods of targeting audiences is now imperative in Africa and more particularly in Nigeria as the largest economy on the African Continent.

Indeed, if we can agree that a liberalised media sector is sine-qua-non to sustenance of liberal democracies on the continent, it then follows that proliferation of TV and Radio organizations has to be sustained by private funding. Not only to deepen nascent democracies across the continent, but also to exhibit our culture as well as the creative sector. 

Private sector funding can mainly be sustained through availability and accuracy of data. That helps to track return-on-Investment [ROI]. Audience research and measurement is therefore the life-blood needed for the sustenance of a liberalised media sector.

     Audience Research Today

Audience research measures how many people are in an audience with relation to radio listenership, TV viewership, newspaper readership, and increasingly online and mobile content consumption habits. It includes practices that help media and advertisers determine who is watching what at what time, rather than just how many people are watching.

 This in turn helps content development and targeting; production budget planning, AD placement and ROI tracking from both the supply and demand ends of the media value chain. It can be described as the currency that drives the sector’s efficiency.

There are several ways of collecting this data credibly, but the main ones are either PASSIVE or DECLARATIVE. Passive measurement refers to a system of being able to collect data about individual or household media consumption using electronic means over periods of time, without the respondents having to note or record their media consumption. This includes the use of People Meters used to measure television, Personal People Meters used to measure television and radio, and software based mobile data collection methods for radio, television and outdoor, among others. 

One major benefit of these systems is that they do not require memory or diligent compliance as in the declarative systems and are therefore considered more accurate and with finer qualitative details. Nigeria like almost every other country on the continent, with the exception of South Africa, currently runs a declarative system for audience data collection. 

South Africa runs a passive system, the only digitally measured country on the continent. So little wonder why yearly media advertising spend in South Africa’s TV market at $1.2B outstrips that of Nigeria almost 3:1, despite South Africa’s economy being just about 92% of Nigeria’s $465billion GDP.

Declarative audience measurement system refers to quantitative research that requires the respondent to state, record or note their media consumption over time. It relies on the diligence of the respondent to fill in their paper or electronic media diaries and also relies on their memory. 

Without the electronic and passive forms of measurement, declarative audience research has proven to be somewhat and often inaccurate and mostly without the finer qualitative details when compared to the passive systems. It includes paper media diaries, laptop based interviews, daily recall telephone interviews, and mobile text based questionnaires among others.

 The findings from audience measurement affect a number of major stakeholders including the media fraternity, major brands, government campaigns, and the advertising industry among others.

In the absence of reliable audience measurement system/data to serve as industry currency for media investment, buying and selling decisions are often made based on perception and decisions are often driven by relationships amongst the stakeholders or effective marketing push by dominant media houses to reinforce entrenched their perception advantages. 

This is why this key data provision is essentially either a regulatory function or a collective industry initiative. More often than not commissioned by industry associations that bring together the stakeholders that are most affected by the research, as a reaction to standards upgrade demands by the regulator of state. 

In some markets, there are purely media driven associations focused on specific media channels, such as BARB in Britain, which is an association of Radio Stations that commission and fund the national radio audience research. We see the same for TV, print and the Internet in various markets around the world. Nigeria has now adopted a hybrid model a NBC and APCON led initiative, but managed by the industry stakeholders and practitioners.

   New Dawn

It is against this background that industry watchers regard the recent push of the Ministry of Information and Culture’s to industry regulators APCON/NBC for global standards in audience measurement for the Nigerian Media market, as a paradigm shift. The Advertising Practitioners Council of Nigeria – APCON (representing the demand side of the equation) and Nigeria Broadcasting Commission NBC (representing the supply side) have now jointly inaugurated a Joint Industry Council (“JIC”), after the appointment of a technical service provider through a transparent bidding system in August 2021. 

A former President of the Media Independent Practitioners – Mr. Tolu Ogunkoya, heads JIC, while technical partnership to the project is supplied by GARB Bulgaria through her Nigerian subsidiary First Media Entertainment & Integrated (Nig)Limited [FMEIL], headed by Dr. Vasselin Shaoulov. Both have since commenced operations with a view of project delivery in the last quarter of 2022.

 Apart from right-sizing the increasingly unbalanced distribution of advertising budget across media platforms, a reliable TAM system for Nigeria is projected to unleash latent and new media investments into the creative sectors by a factor 2.5 within 5yrs of commencement of operations.

In practical terms, it is projected that this will see TV/Radio AD Spend grow from the current $430m/yr to match South Africa’s at $1.2B within 5 yrs. Other countries that have adopted the TAM (Television Audience Measurement) system like Bulgarian (in 2000) or Brazil have seen their TV markets quadruple within a decade of TAM adoption.

Nigeria’s TAM project will indeed be of global standard. Comparative only to Nielsen measurement in South Africa. Its reporting infrastructure will be immediate and real time. Overnight, subscribers will know the audience consumption of what went down on all measured TV channels the previous night. They will see the raw data on their subscription dashboard and integrate their media responses to real-time information. This is comparative to the TV/Radio ratings in the US or the UK.

Other African markets are equally now moving in the measurement direction. Take Kenya for example, the audience measurement journey began with Steadman and Research International coming together and offering a research product to the market, from their own initiative. This product grew into the major form of audience data provided quarterly from 8 major regions in the country, purely on a commercial basis. 

In 2007 when the industry stakeholders came together to form the KARF (Kenya Audience Research Foundation) and commissioned an improved study that would provide a bigger sample and continuous data collection that had quarterly releases with monthly rolling windows. This was the first time ever that the country had monthly data at a standard rate, as a result of the steady funding that came from the organized joint industry association.

 To date, there are about 21-25 other countries in Africa that have any semblance of audience research, but only South Africa can provide continuous media data. The rest only a few times a year. The new digital TAM project is bound to leapfrog Nigeria into Africa’s leading media market in the coming years.

The immediacy of the rating results will be improved data with which advertising agencies could use to plan their media and demonstrate a return-on-investment (ROI) to their clients, the advertiser. With improved metrics and demonstrated value, advertising expenditure will begin to grow in double digits following many years of small, incremental growth and occasional decline. 

The reason: the large advertisers would be able to justify their spend where they were able to have a clear view of the value of media and calculate their ROI – which can only be done in a country that has a media currency with continuous measurement.

Nigeria’s TAM’s proposed audience measurement survey will also focus on knowing who your audience is. For the advertiser, they have specific target groups for their products based on their affordability to that group, or in other words to understand the level of affluence of the target audiences so that they can plan to reach them efficiently with their advertising messages.

  Benefits of such a Robust Audience Measurement System

For Media Houses and Content Providers: The benefits of audience media research for the media houses are that they have better control of their scheduling and inventory in order to increase their audience engagement and level of advertising that they attract. 

It becomes clear what programmes attract specific audiences and therefore they can buy content and plan their programming schedules accordingly to attract audiences that are valuable to the advertisers and brands. With continuous data, the media houses can price their advertising slots accordingly and help advertisers reach their intended audiences in the most efficient manner. This in turn has a knock-on effect on PRODUCTION and the creative sector. Producers can easily react to rating figures and media houses also know which producers create rated content.

Benefit to Media Buying and Planning Agencies: With the ever-fragmenting media landscape, the benefits for media agencies are quite clear. They have a better view of where their target audience are and can therefore prepare strategies and plan to reach them efficiently with advertising messages. As the panel sample allows for reach and frequency optimization, the task of reaching their target audiences is simplified.

Benefit to the Advertiser: since advertising is one of the most important tools of the brand building set available today, the best brand communication strategies would be based on penetrating consumer insights and touching a deep-rooted emotion or belief, and then following through by reaching them effectively with compelling messages and efficiently too, through the media. Nigeria new TAM system will provide the useful insight needed to sustain continuous consumer insight.

  Why This is Needed

In Nigeria, the unreliability of this declarative system has arguably stagnated the promises of our relatively early (compared to the rest of the continent) liberalization of the media sector in the 90’s. Over the years of the operation of the highly unreliable Media Planning Services [MPS] declarative diaries system, we have noticed very strange but interesting trends taking place in TV advertising spend, particularly as it affects the market share between the Pay TV and Free-to-air operators, for example. 

With the very low penetration of pay platforms in the country, the common thinking that Free-to-air TV offers the widest possible audience and therefore better ROI on advertising spend has been turned on its head, not by conflicting data, but rather by big-budgeted platform marketing efforts of the pay TV operators. Pay TV reach in Nigeria ranges between18-20% of Nigeria’s 28m TV households, yet pay TV attracted approximately 65-72% of Nigeria’s total TV spend as of 2020.

Anecdotal confirmation of this rather unusual but dangerous industry trend comes from the acquisition and monetization of sports content in Nigeria. The last Africa Cup of Nations tournament on Free-TV provides a very useful insight. Despite MPS’ post-event report showing that Super Sport (the pay-tv rights holder) delivered approx. 5.5% of that tournament’s audience figures, compared to 71% viewership on the Free-to-air affiliate network (inclusive of NTA),the pay-tv licensee was however able to attract 75% of the tournament’s TV advertising spend. Both platforms offered comparative match fixture schedule and similar support programming. 

This perception or marketing- pushed currency continues to destabilize the ability of the FTA platform to curate or acquire competing or premium content. It also poses great danger to the very survival of the industry critical FTA TV operators. There model survive only on ad funding.

In Conclusion

The turn of the millennium ushered in a fresh narrative for our often-maligned continent. Africa Rising was the new post millennium buzzword. Nigeria is the heartbeat of the new Africa renaissance with her economy and her culture taking global center stage. The rebasing of our economy in 2013 saw our GDP lead the continent with the newly recognized creative sector at the core of this new economic dawn. The media is the shopwindow for any the creative industry. But these shop windows are built on the simple principle of consumer/audience ADOPTION. An unmeasured media market is one that lacks the COMMON CURRENCY of trade. It can only operate on a scattergun approach to media spend and investment.

To sustain this continuing global cultural relevance (some call it reverse imperialism) that our creative sector continues to attain, the media market at home needs to be deepened to provide the much needed economic scale to further propel this very promising and strategic sector. A key infrastructure to sustain our local media market for the ultimate benefit of our vibrant creative sector, is credible Audience Measurement data. That foundation has now been laid by the creation of the Joint Industry Council to birth a new Nigeria media landscape

Due to the maturity of her fragmented media market, the best audience research for Nigeria is a single source (i.e. all media in one survey), adopting passive audience data measurement using relevant new technology, highly accurate with data collected and delivered in near real time, with a highly representative national panel with a sample size with minimal margin of error. Also but equally important, the generated data must be affordable to the stakeholders.

To this end, it is expected that the newly commissioned establishment survey to achieve these objectives will be delivered in September/Oct 2022. This establishment survey will be a recalibration of the incidences of media consumption at a point in time in Nigeria. It will form the basis for the continuous tracking of data collection that will follow, and in commissioning the tracking research phase, it critical to have technology-based data collection methodology to improve the accuracy and ability to deliver data fast. This is because the advertiser wants data to make decisions today, and not to justify decisions made months ago.

A paradigm shift has occurred, the foundation of data driven TV and Radio has now been cemented for other building blocks to mount. The future of the media industry and creative sector is indeed very bright.

*Pedro is Chairman, First Media Entertainment & Integrated (Nig) Limited [FMEIL].


To sustain this continuing global cultural relevance (some call it reverse imperialism) that our creative sector continues to attain, the media market at home needs to be deepened to provide the much needed economic scale to further propel this very promising and strategic sector

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